Youth Of Today

Entry by: Alobear

19th February 2016
Youth of Today

It was still dark when the alarm clock vibrated under Chrissy’s pillow, catapulting her into wakefulness. She had sneaked the clock out of the supply cupboard after dinner the night before and hidden it under her mattress until bed-time. Now, she slipped silently out of bed and stuffed her feet into her trainers, which she had positioned carefully for easy access. She grabbed the warm jacket from the end of her bed and crept out of the dormitory. A snuffle from one of the other kids as she moved past their bed made her freeze for a second, but nobody challenged her, and she pressed on.

She didn’t like to leave the others behind, but there was nothing she could do for them while she stayed. And perhaps, where she was going, she might be able to improve things for them in the long term. Chrissy made her way slowly down the stairs, avoiding the creaky steps, and wondering how it was that the whole household wasn’t being roused by the frantic beating of her heart. She had been planning this escape for weeks now, but the chosen night of departure had come upon her suddenly and, despite all her preparations, she didn’t feel ready.

When she reached the large kitchen, Chrissy inched open the cupboard above the microwave and reached behind the packets of tea and coffee for a forgotten tin hidden at the back. She levered off the lid and took out the small roll of banknotes stashed there. It wasn’t much, but it was all she had been able to collect together over the weeks. Next, she went to the pantry and quickly filled a bag with some cheese and bread and a bottle of water, hoping none of the others would be blamed or punished for what was missing.

The last part of the operation had been the hardest to set up, and was the point at which it would most likely all go wrong. If she had been able to tell any of the others her plan, it would all have been much easier, but Chrissy didn’t want them to have any information that could put them in danger. They all needed to be just as surprised at her disappearance as everyone else. She just hoped their ignorance would protect them from any retribution.

Chrissy’s breath whooshed out of her in relief when she discovered the paper she had used to jam the back door was still in place. Nobody had found it and ensured the door was properly locked before everyone went to bed. She pulled the door open, and stepped out into the night. At the end of the path, she turned and took a last, long look at the house that had been her home for as long as she could remember. She would not miss it.

Chrissy walked quickly away from the house, trying not to look suspicious, her shoulders hunched against the cold. A teenage girl out alone in the early hours of the morning would likely attract unwanted attention, but luckily there wasn’t anyone else around. Apparently, in this area at least, people were keeping to the curfew. She felt very exposed in the empty streets, but figured it was better than having to deal with the curiosity of strangers.

She had memorised the directions on the leaflet she had been given. It would have been far too dangerous to keep it anywhere in the house. She didn’t like to think about what might have happened to her if her plans had been discovered before she had been able to leave. That was another reason she had kept it entirely to herself. Nobody could betray her if nobody knew anything.

It was a long walk, and she was glad of the food she had taken before it was over. Her thin shoes were not designed for this kind of hard wear, but she had no others, and there were no buses running this late. Chrissy wouldn’t have felt brave enough to take the bus anyway - too many opportunities for adults to ask questions about where she was going.

At long last, the street signs told her she had reached her destination. She was well away from the main part of town now, in an area she had never been to before, which looked largely deserted. She turned down the next road and made her way wearily to the far end, where a large building loomed in the darkness. As she approached, she could just make out a series of letters arranged over the entrance.

It read: Youth Of Today.

Underneath, in smaller letters, it said: For a Better Tomorrow.

She was in the right place. A sense of apprehension started to build as she got closer, though. What if the leaflet was some kind of trap, designed to lure rebellious teenagers away from their assigned guardians and reveal their disobedience? Chrissy took a deep breath and told herself there was no turning back now. Regardless of what lay on the other side of that door, she had nowhere else to go. The sky was starting to brighten, and her absence at home would soon be noticed. She couldn’t go back.

She reached out and turned the knob of the door, pushing it away from herself. Bright, yellow light spilled out into the street, and a waft of warm air drew her inside. The area beyond the door was spacious, with curved staircases arching on either side, and a large desk directly in front of her. Despite the early hour, a young woman stood behind the desk, and smiled at Chrissy as she walked forwards.

“Good morning!” the woman said. She had vivid red lipstick and her dark hair curled luxuriantly over her shoulders. Her eyes sparkled in a face that was young and fresh, not careworn and lined like all the other faces Chrissy knew. She was the most beautiful thing Chrissy had ever seen. “Don’t be shy,” the woman continued, holding out a hand to beckon Chrissy on.

Chrissy stopped just on the other side of the desk. The woman looked at her expectantly.

“Is it true?” Chrissy breathed, hardly daring to believe.

“Is what true, sweetheart?” the woman asked, her tone soft.

Nobody had ever called Chrissy that before. Her heart yearned for the affection it promised, for somewhere safe to belong.

“That I can stay here, that you’ll help me, that I won’t have to be afraid any more.” The words came out in an anxious rush. Chrissy was desperate to know, but terrified of being denied.

But the woman just smiled again. “Yes, dear,” she said. “It’s all true.”

“And you can help the others, too?” Chrissy asked. “The others, back where I came from?”

“We can try,” the woman said, “but don’t worry about that for now. You’re here, and that’s all that matters. It looks like you could use some breakfast and a nice spot by the fire. We can sort out everything else later, once you’ve rested. Just go on through that door, and someone will look after you. You’re safe now, I promise.”

Chrissy wanted so much for it to be real, so she decided not to question what the woman was saying. She turned in the indicated direction and went through the door, into another life.